Comment of the Week: ‘They work for us, not the other way around’

“At the end of the day, the public needs to vigorously evaluate and remove its underperforming leaders.”
— John L

Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Note: This column will be posted on Monday mornings from now on.

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With ballots due tomorrow, John L’s comment struck us as a timely reminder that our votes matter. On Friday OPB reported about deep pessimism among Portlanders, and an historically low voter turnout trend continued into the weekend.

In our corner of the world, the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) has also experienced growing dissatisfaction, which has led to talk of reorganizing the modal advisory committees. This is the oldest of debates — is it the individuals or the system that needs changing? John L forcefully argues that tweaking the system is not enough and that your informed vote for competent leadership is critical. His comment stood out because it hewed closely to the subject of the article, and was concise.

Here’s what they wrote:

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I don’t have the sense that the BAC, past or present, has lacked for expertise, knowledge, or hard work. My feeling is the core problem is the city’s attitude toward the BAC. I recall last year when the BAC’s attempt to hold the PBOT commissioner accountable resulted in the BAC being bullied into a cringing apology.

City electeds and staff often seem to forget that they work for us, not the other way around. Until that changes, public advisory bodies will remain an exercise in box-checking theater and misuse of civic-minded Portlanders.

Incidentally, advisory bodies that get elevated to rule-making bodies have problems of their own. They can become another tool of the city, an unelected, handpicked, and beholden body to further reduce electeds’ accountability for their decisions.

At the end of the day, the public needs to vigorously evaluate and remove its underperforming leaders. If voters won’t do that, then all this is just window dressing.

Read the comment and the rest of the thread, here.

Thank you for being part of the conversation John L!

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One
1 month ago

I voted FOR JoAnn Hardesty, and I voted to REMOVE Dan Ryan.
And I ride my bike regularly year round.

Vote. And if you are under 30 years old, ask your peers to vote. The Portland Mercury has a great voting guide online.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  One

Even though I think Hardesty is absolutely the wrong candidate for this time and place, I’m glad you voted. I think the importance of civic participation transcends who wins and loses.

And I would add that even people over 30 should vote!

Steve
Steve
1 month ago

“[T]he public needs to vigorously evaluate and remove its underperforming leaders.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The public is limited to choosing between candidates. An underperforming leader may be the best candidate for the position.

Damien
Damien
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

The public is limited to choosing between candidates. An underperforming leader may be the best candidate for the position.

And therein lies the rub.

Unfortunately, the system does not incentivize good legislator candidates – hence we rarely get them. I don’t know how we fix that, either, without taking a sledgehammer to significant American cultural touchstones.

ivan
ivan
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

This so much. I was not at all thrilled by Lynn Petersen (excuses for widening I-5, no leadership around congestion pricing, piecemeal-at-best approach to housing affordability crisis and people experiencing homelessness), but Alisa Pyszka is transparently a voice for wealthy developers and supported by PPA dark money groups. (The other two guys running are protest candidates who have zero appeal and zero chance.)

Sometimes you just have to pick your opponent. I’d rather fight Petersen than Pyszka.